Apple has filed a lawsuit against a Mountain View startup called Rivos, claiming it illicit employees who took chip-design secrets on their way out of the Cupertino iPhone giant.
“Rivos continues to target Apple engineers with more departures this month,” the lawsuit filed on Friday alleged.
The startup, currently describing itself as “stealth mode” on its website, has hired more than 40 former Apple employees in the past year, the suit alleged.
The lawsuit, filed in US District Court in San Jose, claims, “As of June 2021, Rivos has conducted a coordinated effort to target Apple employees with access to trade secret information about Apple’s ownership and Apple (chip) design.” campaign started.”
The suit alleges that Rivos instructed some activists to download and install an encrypted-communications app before having further conversations with them.
Rivos did not immediately respond to emailed requests and voicemails seeking comment.
Most of the employees who left Apple for the startup were design engineers working on computer and phone chips, according to the suit.
Apple claims employees carried out forensic analysis of the devices they took the information from before leaving the show.
At issue is Apple’s M1 computer chip — designed in-house and released in late 2020, marking the firm’s move away from Intel’s processing chips — and used in the latest iPhones. “A15” chip. Apple has devoted billions of dollars to the development of the chips, it said in the suit.
Rivos was founded a year ago with the aim of making chips to compete against Apple, the suit claimed. The information held by Apple employees hired by Rivos includes “some highly sensitive and valuable Apple information” that would “give Rivos a significant, unfair advantage in developing advanced … chips,” the suit alleged. .
The lawsuit also names two former Apple employees who are alleged to have taken secret data revisions with them. Bhasi Cathamana worked as an engineer at Apple in Austin, Texas for nearly 8 years managing chip design, according to suit. Apple claims Cathamana accepted a job offer from Rivos between July 20 and August 9 last year, then asked Apple for a day off on August 10.
“During his vacation days, Mr. Cathamana created a new folder on his Apple-issued computer and began copying Apple documents containing proprietary and trade secret information,” the lawsuit alleged. Although Cathamana resigned from Apple on August 13, “he worked to continue collecting Apple’s ownership and trade secret (chip) files until the day before he left Apple on August 16,” the suit claimed. The folder named “APPLE_WORK_DOCS” contained thousands of Apple documents, and he copied the files to an external storage drive, Apple alleged.
Cathamana did not immediately respond to email requests and voicemails sent to him at Rivos seeking a response.
Another former Apple employee, Ricky Wayne of San Jose, worked at Apple as a chip-design engineer for nearly 14 years, according to the suit. The suit claims that Rivos contacted Wayne about moving to Apple in June or July of last year and that he accepted a job offer similar to a job offer at Apple on July 23.
Within a week, Wayne, also known as Wayne Shih-chih, transferred about 390 gigabytes of data from his Apple-issued computer to personal hard drives—including trade secrets related to past, present, and unreleased chips, and Apple found that he had accessed more chip-design secrets the day before he left Apple, and just before the hard drive was connected to a company-issued computer, as alleged in the lawsuit. . The suit claims he transferred hundreds of files, including chip-design diagrams, to his personal Google Drive, and also kept trade secrets on his iCloud Drive after leaving Apple.
Wayne did not immediately respond to email requests and voicemails sent to him at Rivos seeking comment.
Apple further claimed that “many” other former employees who took jobs at Rivos, like they had at Apple, downloaded and kept proprietary Apple documents after accepting a job offer from the startup. The suit alleges that in the days between Rivos’ hiring and his departure from Apple, many had attached external storage drives to computers released by Apple.
“Many employees deleted information or completely wiped their Apple devices to try to cover up their tracks,” the suit claims.
Rivos is currently advertising more than 75 new employees, the vast majority in technology areas such as chip and software engineering, mostly in Mountain View, but also in Austin, Bangalore and Cambridge, England.
Apple is claiming unspecified damages, and is seeking a court order that the allegedly erroneous data be returned, and that Rivos cease any access to or use of the data.
In March, federal prosecutors accused a former Apple employee of defrauding the company of more than $10 million by taking bribes, stealing equipment and diverting money.